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Fancy a Fin-ternship? The Ventura County school for mermaids!

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Caroline Feraday
/
KCLU
There's a Mermaid school in Simi Valley

What links a Ventura County city with the antics of Ariel?

A fish tail covered in sparkling scales splashes down in water. But we aren’t at the ocean, this is a pool in Simi Valley and the fish tail…that belongs to a mermaid.

This is LA Mermaid School, founded and run by Virginia Hankins, who is also known as Catalina Mermaid.

And it’s here where – for ten years – mermaids have learned their craft.

"It's the longest running privately held mermaid company in the world, I believe," explained Hankins.

The company started almost by fluke, said Hankins, when she was working as a professional "Knight In Shining Armor" and worked on a photoshoot underwater. That was ten years ago, and she's no longer wearing a suit of armor, but a latex fish tail and plenty of sparkles.

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Caroline Feraday
/
KCLU
The unique school runs 'Fin-ternships'

"We run Finternships, it's a college level internship program," said Hankins.

It's not a gimmick, the mermaids learn water safety, life-guard training, as well as elements of the entertainment industry.

"It's about having fun and splashing around", said Rebecca Hurt, who is a mermaid in training, and here for a lesson, but, she said, there's more than just the playful aspects.

"It's about learning a skill that people don't realize is a skill. It's more than what people think."

Holly Campbell works as Mermaid Cascade and says it's a "lot of fun" to be a working mermaid.

"You get to meet lots of people and got a lot of fun places," she said.

She says she's often asked by kids what type of food she likes to eat under the water.

"I usually tell them I love seaweed souffles or kelp cakes."

They might be called upon to appear at a kids' birthday party, or a Hollywood event, or even an environmental event at an aquarium. And Hankins says mermaids aren’t just for kids – they capture the imagination of adults and children alike.

"The nice thing about mermaids is it tells you 'what if'.

"Humans so often think there's nothing left to discover, so we look to the stars or we look to the seas. With so much of the ocean undiscovered, there's always the possibility of what if something exists that I have never thought of and what if that could be real?

"Getting away from the mundane of reality and into the realm of possibility is so healthy."

And with reality being so full of bad news right now, what’s wrong with escaping to a little mermaid magic?

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Caroline Feraday
/
KCLU
LA Mermaid School has been running for ten years

Caroline joined KCLU in October 2020. She won LA Press Club's Audio Journalist of the Year Award in 2022.

She started her broadcasting career in the UK, in both radio and television for BBC News, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism in 2007.

She has lived in California for ten years and is both an American and British citizen - and a very proud mom to her daughter, Elsie.